14 Vital Questions to Ask Yourself At Storefront Services

14 Vital Questions to Ask Yourself At Storefront Services

UAHT is producing a five-part series on labor trafficking. Through this blog series, we are providing information and tips to identify labor trafficking! 

Today, we are focusing on how to spot red flags in storefront services like nail salons, restaurants, massage parlors, spas, and auto repair shops – anywhere that provides a service. 

As a customer, you may spot signs of labor trafficking in stores that you regularly visit. We want you to be equipped with the right questions to ask yourself before you report your suspicions! 

Remember every case of trafficking is different, and there’s no single form. These questions are a guide, not a formula.

Staff Behavior Can Indicate Human Labor Trafficking

Staff Behavior

1. What is communication at the site like?

Who is talking? Do workers appear to be coached on what they say, closely watched when they speak, or seem unwilling or unable to communicate with others?

2. Do you notice signs of physical or emotional abuse?

This can include unexplained bruises, lapses in memory, undue anxiety, appearing malnourished, etc. 

Store Environment Can Indicate Human Labor Trafficking

Store Environment

3. What is the work environment like?

Do you notice dangerous conditions, workers operating equipment without proper safety gear, training, adequate breaks and other protections? 

4. What security measures are in place?

Are there camera monitoring entrances and employees, or unusual security measures (locks activated on the outside of doors, barbed wire facing inwards on a fence, bars on windows, etc)? This could mean that employees are heavily monitored and unable to leave on their own, and are meant to be kept in. 

5. Do they appear to be living in their workplace, or come and go with their employer?

Their living situation and movement could be controlled by a trafficker.  

6. Do you notice small children working?

While children do have labor rights, including the right to work, exceptionally young children or children working in unsafe or inappropriate positions is a red flag for labor exploitation 

7. Does the worker or workplace lack professional licensing?

Places like massage parlors, tattoo parlors, and nail salons are required to have licenses to operate in Texas, and you have the right to ask to see it if you don’t see one displayed.  

8. Do you notice any obvious safety violations?

This could be something you see: open chemical containers, fire hazards, employees working without proper protective gear. It could also be something you notice with other senses: For example, if there is a strong smell of chemicals in a place like a nail salon, that’s a clear indicator that there’s not enough ventilation in the area.  

Control over finances can indicate human labor trafficking

Financial Control

9. Do workers mention owing a debt to their employer?

This is a sign of debt bondage, a common control measure by traffickers.  They also might mention not being paid the wages they were promised by their employer. This is wage theft, and is a clear example of labor exploitation. 

10. Who handles the money?

Are you allowed to tip the person providing the service directly, or does someone in the business make it clear that money is to be handled through another party? What is payment like—is it cash only? Do you see a third party clearly controlling all finances? 

Ask Questions to Identify Human Trafficking

Ask Directly

If it is safe and you feel comfortable, you can ask an employee a few questions. Do not force answers. 

You can strike up a casual conversaion:

11. How’d you get this job?

If they mention a romantic partner or family member pressuring them to take it, that could be an indicator. Most traffickers aren’t strangers to the victim; they’re more likely to be people the victim knows directly. It’s a relationship that is being exploited through force, fraud, or coercion, and it’s important to get stereotypes out of our heads when thinking about trafficking.  

12. What made you want to start working here?

Again, if they mention pressure from partners or family members, take notice.  

13. How do you like working here? 

This can give the worker an opening to mention red flags on their own terms—long hours, owing a debt, their employer withholding their identification documents, and so on.  

What to do when you notice red flags of human trafficking

What To Do If You Notice Multiple Red Flags

Now that you have this handy list of signs, here’s what to do if you suspect labor trafficking:

1. Wait until you are off-location

In order to protect yourself and the potential victim from punishment or being moved from the location, wait until you are out-of-sight and out-of-earshot of potential traffickers.

2. Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888

If it has taken place in the Houston area, please contact us at United Against Human Trafficking to report your credible tip. We offer direct services, including case management for victims of human trafficking.

3. Inform others of these red flags, and let them know about the issue.

Spreading awareness is the first step in this journey towards freedom for all, and community members like you are an important part of that step. Spread the word! 

Finally, continue to watch this space for more on labor trafficking! Our next segment will be focused on storefront shopping. Thank you again for dedicating your time to becoming a more informed consumer, and for your commitment to fight for a world where all can be free.   

2 Simple Questions To Identify Labor Trafficking

2 Simple Questions To Identify Labor Trafficking

Luca and Peter – Who Was Trafficked?

Two men, Luca and Peter, live in two different drug rehabilitation centers. As part of their programs, both men are expected to work. 

The first man, Luca, works building doors. Before he started, his manager promised that he would be paid every Friday for his work.

On his first night, management locked the gates to the facility from the outside. Friday came and went, but Luca never received his paycheck. Weeks passed, and the gates locked every night and no paycheck ever came. 

The second man, Peter, is expected to panhandle for spare change. When he returns to the rehabilitation center, he must give the money he makes to his manager. He was never promised that he could keep it.

A few weeks pass and Peter decides to leave the program entirely and search for a different job. 

Both of these men were being exploited for their labor, but only one was being trafficked. 

Do you know which one? 

We Need To Talk About Labor Trafficking

Labor trafficking occurs at a higher rate than sex trafficking globally but is reported at a lower rate to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. It is imperative to address both sex and labor trafficking so that all can live free. 

In this five-part blog series, we’re equipping you to recognize and report labor trafficking. 

Right now, you’re reading part two, which will help you understand the distinction between labor exploitation and labor trafficking: 


Labor trafficking is a type  of labor exploitation.

 Labor exploitation is exactly what it sounds like: exploiting another human being to profit unfairly off their work. All cases of labor trafficking are an extreme form of labor exploitation. However, some cases of labor exploitation are not human trafficking. 

Labor trafficking is unique because it involves the element of choice: people being trafficked feel that they cannot choose to leave the situation they are in. Let’s look at the A-M-P Model, which defines human trafficking. 

The A-M-P Model For Identifying Human Trafficking

Trafficking occurs when an action is taken, by the means of force, fraud, or coercion, for the purpose of profiting off someone else’s labor or service. 

Exploitation describes unfairly profiting off someone else’s labor; there is no “means” in this definition. Force, fraud, or coercion are unnecessary for exploitation to occurAt least one of these means must be present along with exploitation for someone to legally be considered trafficked. 

In a trafficking situation, force, fraud, and coercion make the victim feel like they cannot leave and get another job. 

If we know a person is being exploited for labor, we need to ask 2 questions to determine if it is human trafficking:
  1. How did the victim come to have this job? (Were they recruited, harbored, transported, provided, obtained, patronized, or solicited into the job?) 
  2. Was the victim forced, defrauded, or coerced into taking or staying in the job? 

If you answer “yes” to both those questions, it’s human trafficking. 

Let’s go back to Luca and Peter’s stories and ask these critical questions.


1. How did Peter come to have this job? (Was he recruited, harbored, transported, provided, obtained, patronized, or solicited into the job?)

Peter was harbored because he lived at the rehabilitation center, which employed him. Yes.

2. Was Peter forced, defrauded, or coerced into taking or staying in the job?

  • Peter was not locked in at the rehabilitation center and he wasn’t physically abused if he didn’t work, so he wasn’t forced. No. 
  • Peter was never promised wages, so he was not defrauded. No. 
  • Peter was never threatened or psychologically manipulated, so he was not coerced. No. 

Although it’s clear Peter was harbored for labor exploitation, we don’t see an element of “means” -force, fraud, or coercion – here. Peter was not trafficked. 


1. How did Luca come to have this job? (Was he recruited, harbored, transported, provided, obtained, patronized, or solicited into the job?)

Luca – like Peter – was harbored because he lived at the rehabilitation center, which employed him. Yes.

2. Was Luca forced, defrauded, or coerced into taking or staying in the job?

  • Luca was locked in at the rehabilitation center, so he was forced. Yes. 
  • Luca was promised wages that he never recieved, so he was defrauded. Yes.
  • Luca wasn’t threatened or psychologically manipulated, so he was not coerced. No. 

Luca was harbored through force and fraud for the purpose of labor exploitation. Using the A-M-P Model, we can see that Luca was trafficked. 

Labor exploitation and labor trafficking go hand in hand.

To identify labor trafficking, it is important that you recognize the signs of labor exploitation so that you can report unfair and illegal labor practices.  As people who support a society of freedom for all, we have an obligation to see and understand the exploitation of others around us. That’s why we at UAHT are writing this series for you! 

We Serve Labor Trafficking Survivors Through our Case Management Program

Although labor trafficking rarely makes the news, you can be assured that our team is walking labor trafficking survivors – like Luca – through every step of their journey toward freedom.

From finding somewhere safe to sleep and nutritious food to eat to job training and interviews, our Case Manager ensures every client, of any gender, who experienced any trafficking type, is equipped with the tools they need to live free.

To start at the beginning of this series, check out our first post. Meanwhile, watch our blog for the next post on recognizing human trafficking in storefront services.



The U.S. Department of Labor oversees labor exploitation issues and workers can file claims for violations of  

  • Workplace Health and Safety: OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)  
  • Nearly every employee in the nation comes under OSHA’s jurisdiction with some exceptions such as miners, some transportation workers, many public employees, and the self-employed. For more information about OSHA, visit https://www.osha.gov/.  
  • OSHA also administers the Whistleblower Protection program, ensuring an employer cannot retaliate by taking “adverse action” against workers who report injuries, safety concerns, or other protected activity. For more information about the Whistleblower Protection program, visit https://www.whistleblowers.gov/.  
  • Fair Labor Standards Act – FLSA contains rules concerning the employment of young workers, those under the age of 18, and is administered and enforced by DOL’s Wage and Hour Division. Intended to protect the health and well-being of youth in America, the FLSA contains minimum age restrictions for employment, restrictions on the times of day youth may work, and the jobs they may perform.  
  • Minimum wage, child labor, and Workers Owed Wages: Wage and Hour Division. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is responsible for administering and enforcing some of the nation’s most important worker protection laws. WHD is committed to ensuring that workers in this country are paid properly and for all the hours they work, regardless of immigration status.   
  • WHD Website: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd  
  • How to File a Complaint with WHD: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/contact/complaints  
  • For more information about DOL and worker safety and health, visit https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/safety-health.   

National Human Trafficking Hotline is a toll-free number anyone can call to report or get more information on human trafficking. Call 1-888-373-7888 

3 Critical Facts About Labor Trafficking We Can’t Ignore

3 Critical Facts About Labor Trafficking We Can’t Ignore

 There are an estimated 313,000 victims of trafficking in Texas, and a whopping 75% of them are experiencing labor trafficking. It’s time we talk about them. We need to make sure our conversations and our actions are centered as much on justice for victims and survivors of labor trafficking as they are on victims and survivors of sex trafficking.

1. Labor Trafficking Afflicts Every Corner Of The Globe

Labor trafficking—when someone is physically forced, threatened, or tricked into working–afflicts every corner of the globe, just like sex trafficking. Even with limited data on human trafficking, it’s clear: labor trafficking is more common than sex trafficking. Yet all too frequently, we ignore the signs and impact of labor trafficking, we don’t report the crime, and we never empower victims to leave their dangerous trafficking situations.

When we think of labor trafficking, we think “not us.”

Labor trafficking brings to mind stories of factory fires in Bangladesh, children in Nike factories overseas, young girls in garment sweatshops in some distant, far-off place making 30 cents an hour. And that’s true. Labor trafficking can and does take those forms.

2. But it’s more than that. It’s close to home.

Labor trafficking can be experienced by the nanny for those kids down the street. It happens to workers at that donut shop you always go to on Fridays before work starts. To the day laborers you see waiting for work at Home Depot.

Labor trafficking is here. It’s in Houston, it’s in our communities. And it’s something that we can see – if we know the signs.

We want to help you know what to look out for, so we’re launching a blog series on labor trafficking. We are going to talk with you about three types of businesses where labor trafficking can thrive, and give you, the customer, questions to consider as you support these businesses.

3. Labor Trafficking is a business. Vote with your dollar.

As consumers, our purchasing power is a huge tool at our disposal. Maybe you have heard the phrase “vote with your dollar.” By actively making a choice to spend our money on fair trade and ethically produced goods and services and by refusing to spend it on exploitative business practices, we shape the economy.

As consumers, our purchasing decisions tell people and companies what and who we value.

We as consumers must learn about dangerous working environments, red flags for exploitation, and best practices. Knowing what is fair trade is a good, necessary starting point, and there are several resources out there for you! You can check out Fair Trade USA for information and shopping tips, or some of the webinars that UAHT has released online.

But it can’t end there.

We have to know the signs of labor trafficking and exploitation, and we need to be engaged as consumers if we truly want to create a world where all are free. 

The fight to end human trafficking is a journey. Thank you for joining us on it.



National Human Trafficking Hotline is a toll-free number anyone can call to report or get more information on human trafficking. Call 1-888-373-7888.

5 Fair Trade Summer Fashion Items

5 Fair Trade Summer Fashion Items

Memorial Day has come and gone, and you know what that means! That’s right, it is officially summer! Okay, maybe not officially, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get ready for some fun in the sun with these summer essentials.

Now, some of these might not be applicable to your socially distant summer but fret not! Some of these products, you can use regardless of wrenches thrown in summer plans. Others are ones you can stock up on for when beaches and barbeques are open for business again. So, shop on, and get ready for summer 2020!

How is shopping a solution to human trafficking?

Buying items from brands that pay fair wages, hire survivors, and invest in their community, keeps people free. You ensure that a farm worker can provide for her family and that a sex trafficking victim can stay away from his captor.

Imagine a creative and skilled survivor just learned that someone purchased a necklace made by her hands. A smile lights up her face as she remembers she is loved and capable because you choose to buy her craft – rather than her body.

Each purchase is an encouragement to press on into pursing a fair and free future. We’ve made it easy for you to fight human trafficking through fun summer shopping. Look at our fun list below. There is something for everyone!

Summer Clothing

For people of all genders, shorts are a summer staple. That being said—a sad truth is that fair trade menswear has been neglected in the clothing conversation. Enter Marine Layer! They have a broad selection of menswear, but for warmer weather, check out their collection of shorts and trunks! (And if menswear isn’t your thing, don’t worry—they have plenty of other style options, including for kids and for the gals).

For a further guide to ethical menswear, this list from The Good Trade can help you start searching. And to find unique, eco-friendly (and budget friendly) clothing across the board, you can look at thrift stores, or consider doing a closet swap with friends that wear your size! For those socially distancing, there are always online thrift shops available. My personal favorite to online-shop at is happygirlthrift, a woman-run, Kansas-based Instagram account selling secondhand wears and accessories.


Get ready for swimsuit season with some of these pieces from Boden USA, a Britain-based company that is committed to environmental sustainability and fair labor practices across the board.

You can also check out some gender-inclusive, size inclusive options at Tomboy X. This company is eco-friendly, sweatshop free, and dedicated to promoting a “human agenda,” supportive of all.

Stuff Kids Love

Speaking of swimsuits: Where can you buy them for kids? Many fair-trade stores only offer options for a limited (read: adult-sized) audience. If you’re shopping for a little loved one, we have some options for you.

Hanna Andersson has some great swimsuits for kids in their swimwear collection. And if you have older kiddos or are shopping for a wider age range, Eternal Creation has clothing and accessories for ages 0-14.

For more brands and places to check out, Good On You’s ethical children’s brand directory has you covered! 


Bags are a must have for any hot summer plans (and for Insta pics for those of us who are sheltering at home but want to look like we have hot summer plans). Trades of Hope has a wide assortment for you to choose from, from wristlets to totes! They also have a wide range of prices, if you’re concerned about your budget. I personally am obsessed with their Mosaic Clutches—each of which is as unique and dazzling as the artisan who crafts it.

Towels – If you’re in need of a beach towel, or want to stock up for when pools are allowed to open, Fair and Square Imports sells a gorgeous Turkish Towel in three different hues as part of their Summer R&R Collection. They’re supporting a great cause, and can pull double duty as a scarf or a travel shawl! The store is based out of Mckinney, Texas, but makes online shopping a breeze for those of us in Houston or elsewhere. 

Skincare & Sunscreen

A good sunscreen is an essential part of any summer routine, on the beach or off. To protect skin from damaging UVA beams, The Body Shop’s Aloe Soothing Moisture Lotion (SPF 15) is here for you! Additionally, the fair trade, community sourced aloe in the formula will keep your skin cool and moisturized during the hot Houston days. They also have a skin-brightening Vitamin C lotion in SPF 30, for those looking for a higher level of protection.

For an added boost: Put on sunscreen after a luxurious DIY exfoliation worthy of a spa. After brewing a cup of fair trade coffee from A 2nd Cup,  save the grounds! Mix them with some ethically sourced olive oil for an eco-friendly, budget friendly skin scrub that will leave your skin glowing and soft. This will keep in a sealed container for about three to five weeks, depending on batch size. An added bonus: by clearing away dead skin cells, combining this with an SPF will boost your summer tan!

And there you have it! Whether you’re staying in with the AC on blast, or are out on the beach, here’s to you having a fabulous, fun, ethically sourced summer!

Fair Trade Mother’s Day Gift Guide

Fair Trade Mother’s Day Gift Guide

Mother’s Day is coming up! This one may feel a little (or a whole lot) different. It’s harder to see people, and shopping in stores is not an option for mostThe one thing that’s going to remain constant though? Our love for the moms in our life.  

Some of us are celebrating our own mothers; some of us are helping our little ones celebrate our partners. Some are honoring the moms of their found family. No matter what your family structure looks like, it’s a day to show some extra love to the maternal figures in your life! And we’re here to help, with some ethically-sourced gift ideas for you.  

1. A Full Belly and a happy heart

Fair Trade Foods

The way to the heart is through the stomach–what better way to show it than by gifting the maternal figure in your life a meal that will taste good and feel good?

Chocolates are a surefire win for the mom who loves sweets. Local Houston stores like Chocolate Bar and Araya Chocolate are some of our recommendations. You can also check out national brands like Divine, Endangered Species Chocolate, or Tony’s Chocoloney.

If mom’s more of a brunch person, a breakfast in bed (or porch) is sure to make her smile. Check out some fair trade recipes here   

2. Accessories fit for a queen

Fair Trade Jewelry

Give the gift of jewelry to your mother–and the gift of freedom to a survivor of trafficking with these products. These are either made by survivors, or support organizations that combat human trafficking. Most can be ordered online if the physical storefront is closed.  

Noonday Collection is a great source for ethical products supporting a variety of causes. Be sure to check out their accessories collection online 

Another site to shop at for accessories is Trades of Hope. They fight human trafficking, and keep moms with their kids, by providing stable and sustainable work for women artisans across the globe. This Mother’s Day, you can give a gift not just to the maternal figure in your life, but to a mom overcoming difficult circumstances too. 

3. A relaxing space

Fair Trade Scents

Candles and other scented products are a classic for a reason. Check out these ethically sourced products for Mom! 

Elijah Rising’s candles provide employment for survivors of human trafficking, and proceeds help fund long-term comprehensive care for adult survivors. They also offer soaps and other bath products on their website!  Winton and Waits, based in Fort Worth, carries amazing products like rollerball scents, bath products, and scented oil diffusers. 

Meanwhile, Sparrow House Botanicals sells products that are made by survivors of human trafficking. Made with ethically sourced ingredients, these products also help fund aftercare for women who have escaped sex trafficking. They have a variety of botanical products—if you have trouble choosing, they also have convenient gift sets! 

4. Quick Gifts

Available for pick-up or fast delivery

Okay, be honest. We’ve all been there. It’s a few days before the big day, and you only just realized it’s coming up. No gift in mind? No problem! Here are some quick and easy products that you can get in a pinch, without feeling guilty about the rush.  

Lush’s storefronts may be closed, but their online delivery is still going strong! Check out their adorable (and ethical!) Mother’s Day themed products here.  

Fair trade flowers are another Mother’s Day staple. Florists like Sense Ecuador are a great choice. You can also buy from Whole Foods—be sure to look for the Whole Trade marker! 

If she’s a coffee or tea drinker, we have the stores for you. A 2nd Cup is more than a cafe—it fights human trafficking by raising awareness and providing resources to survivors. Their storefront is closed for the time being, but their online shop is still open! In addition to getting coffee and tea, you could also surprise her with a flavor syrup for her daily drink, or a coffee accessory! Numi is also a great vendor for Fair Trade, sustainable organic teas.  

Whether she’s near or far away, you can still show the maternal figures in your life that you care. This Mother’s Day may be very different—but the love we have for the moms around us is never going to change.